National waterskier Mark Leong is in Kuala Lumpur to defend the slalom gold medal he won at the 2015 SEA Games on home soil. He pens an exclusive column for The Straits Times on how support from his family and friends is a massive boost to his hunt for sporting glory.
Home... is the feeling of receiving immense support from my family. That gives me the security and foundation for my overall wellness to go on giving my best.
My family's support is rooted in not just supporting me as a son, but also from the very fact that they wholeheartedly understand the sport and its challenges. My younger brother waterskis quite often, and my older brother does mountain biking. Both of them are very active, and take a keen interest in sports.
My mum in her early 20s waterskied with my dad and their friends. Because I started skiing, she decided to pick it up again when I was around 13 years old.
I even pushed my mum to enter a waterskiing competition. At first, she thought I was crazy as she wasn't that young any more. But she gave it a shot, and recently competed in Abu Dhabi. You know what - she got her first gold medal.
Now, every time I head down to the reservoir, she's there and she skis too. Mum truly understands the sport as a competitor, and has always been there for me.
Similarly, dad has always been there every step of the way. He taught me how to swim, and spends a lot of time with my brothers and I. He used to challenge me to push myself, by competing with me on how long I could hold on to monkey bars.
My family, friends, coaches, experiences, the ups and downs - they all form an important part of my ecosystem that keeps me going in this sport. It takes a village to raise an athlete, and to that, the athlete owes his village much.
When I've had bad moments or training sessions, I would always speak to my dad. He encourages me to focus on the important aspects of the sport and to keep my eyes fixed on my goals.
Family is very important to me; regardless of my commitments, I always try to set aside Saturdays for my family - that keeps me going.
Apart from my family, my friends stand by me and support my decisions and choices in life.
From the time I picked up the sport at the age of 10, my friends have been a huge part of my sporting life. They understand that I face a lot of challenges as an athlete, for example, balancing the competing demands of studies, training and social life.
The strong support from my friends meant that I can focus on being the best version of myself, and not feel like I've missed out on my growing years.
A special mention goes to Sasha Christian, my close friend in the sport, who is a constant pillar of support to propel me forward.
To me, working with Sasha is a really valuable experience because she's always there as a useful pair of eyes to spot what I can do better, and she looks out for my welfare.
She helps me with my skiing techniques and also recommends training schedules so that we can benefit from our routine. She's the perfect training partner and friend. Unlike team sports or other popular sports in Singapore, the waterskiing community here remains relatively small. It is in such circumstances that the value of friendship is put to the test, as we have to heavily rely on each other - and in our case, our friendship is elevated.
My family, friends, coaches, experiences, the ups and downs - they all form an important part of my eco-system that keeps me going in this sport. It takes a village to raise an athlete, and to that, the athlete owes his village much.
This SEA Games, I'm ready for Kuala Lumpur. For everyone who has supported me along the way, I really want to do this for them. I'm going to cruise full speed ahead, with a smile on my face.
I'm going to do my best, I'm going to do Singapore proud.
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